Monday, December 12, 2011

The power of persimmons

It's funny how two simple things -- in this case, two persimmons -- can trigger such happy memories.

The persimmons of which I speak were in our Fresh Abundance box this week. I had to smile.

I first became acquainted with persimmons while living in Southern California in the 80s, courtesy of Young Bob Flynn. Persimmon trees are legion in older neighborhoods there, planted for their decorative leaves and bright fruit that appears in late fall.

Oregon girl that I am, I found them more than a little disconcerting.

As a fruit, they are somewhat blowsy and bloated, as if coming off some two-day bender up in the trees. And being so accustomed to the Pacific Northwest's orderly collection of fruit, nuts and berries --symmetric in design and modestly cloaked in browns, blues, yellow and reds -- I found the persimmon's riotous orange skin more than a little scandalous.


 You would have to agree.
Pureed persimmon is some seriously scary SH*T.
And so it was, when Young Bob Flynn came home one day with a handful of these strange orange goobers that someone at work had shared and announced she was making persimmon cookies, "using Grandma's recipe," I thought I had just been pitched into the perfect storm. Without my dramamine pills.

Young Bob Flynn's erratic cooking successes -- and failures -- were legendary. Cooking was not a passion of hers. It was a function -- a function of getting dinner on the table for a meat-and-potatoes spouse and six hungry kids who just wanted to eat as long as it didn't look, smell or taste funny.

And, oh, that's after a full day's work as a nurse.

Young Bob Flynn DID have some pretty rock star signature dishes: Chicken Divan, watermelon roast, clam and oyster chowder, scalloped potatoes and anything Crystal Light (oh wait. sorry. that's not a dish). But she had her culinary blind spots as well -- like baking an Easter ham in its plastic wrap and the unshakeable belief that anything roasted would be elevated with the addition of one or two cans of undiluted Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup.

My entire body still puckers in the saline memory of Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup. And that's not an attractive thing.

Nor did I recall Young Bob Flynn baking much (we're a little bit alike in that regard), which occurred to me as I watched her bustle around pulling together the ingredients for persimmon cookies those many years ago. But she appeared to know what she was doing -- and "Grandma" most certainly did. Several hours later, a tray of cookies with butter cream frosting rested in all its glory on the kitchen counter.

The entire house smelled like Christmas.

Tentatively, with visions of weird, corpulent persimmons splatting on my head, I took my first bite. There was no going back. Cookie lines were drawn in the sand. Young Bob Flynn's persimmon cookie was soft, cakey, spicy and crazy sweet-and-sour, finished with a gentle communion of powdered sugar, butter. and vanilla. I was addicted.

Me:Hello, I am Mrs. B and I'm a persimmon-cookie-aholic.

Persimmon-cookie-aholic Group: Hello, Mrs. B.

Thank you, Young Bob Flynn, for this addiction -- this addiction to the things that are odd, enduring touchstones to family and holidays. There will be persimmon cookies made in your honor -- in perpetuity.

P.S. YBF, the fruit still scares me, though. Just a little. Any help in this department would be appreciated.


  1. i LOVE LURVE LUV persimmons! epecially when they're somewhere between crunchy and soggy. i detest them soggy. i look forward to them every season but they're too damn expensive for whatever reason. you'd think a fruit that not many people like would be cheaper so they can get rid of them.

    i've never had any persimmon cookies nor heard of them before! is a recipe forthcoming?

    watermelon roast? are we being roasted?

  2. Sarah Kavanaugh12/13/2011 10:16 AM

    I've been thinking about G-ma's persimmon cookies lately Mary! Nice work. :) Can you send the recipe?